And just like that, he is one. I am no longer a mother of a newborn. That is no longer my identity. It is this identity that I have lived with for what feels like so long. Seemingly, I rubbed my eyes, poured my coffee—and boom, there was a toddler. There is no level on which I am ready to accept this. Inside, I’m pleading—give me back the newborn onesies, the burp clothes and breastfeeding accoutrement I have packed away so neatly in plastic containers I store for another time, or to give away to friends. No longer needed, they’ve been pushed aside—somewhat analogous to how I’m feeling in this season of motherhood. They are the cherished relics of what I felt would be the hardest time. They elicit a sense of nostalgia. The strong and somewhat nauseating smell of baby detergent enveloping us both as we would rock in the glider, or cry together on the couch. It still sits on my nose to this day.
Much to my dismay all these months later, my soul is still simmering with feelings of postpartum inadequacy. I’m told by those more seasoned than I that those feelings never cease, so I am trying to make room for them. I’ve watched as others have babies, and now are on to second babies and perhaps a third. I cannot fathom enduring a pregnancy again. Not now, at least. He is my perfectly imperfect ray of sunshine. He drives me nuts, but makes me happy. The source from which my daily range of emotions arise. The center of my universe, and I cannot imagine another right now. But that does not stop the questions of when another may come along for us.
You’re not getting any younger, are you?
I mentally file these under “things I will never ask another woman again.” It’s hard to react the "right" way—in the way that is expected by whoever your audience is at the time. How do they know I am not trying right now? How do they know we’re not having a hard time having a second? Our decisions surrounding the future of our family are private and personal—between my husband and I. As with all of us, our futures are unknown. Stories that have not yet been written and are waiting to be told. But what I do know with absolute certainty is that I want to enjoy each moment with our first, our only baby as if it will be our last.
But our baby is no longer a baby—at least in the sense I’ve identified with for the last year. Each month, I’ve painstakingly crafted an Instagram-worthy monthly letterboard and dressed him in a plain white onesie. I get out the baby book and scrawl his most recent milestones and favorites down on paper before I forget them. I’ve watched the progression from newborn to one year in slow motion, but now it feels like I’m living in a flipbook.
I’ve had visions of what his first birthday would be like. Celebrating one year of life for our little man, and one year of parenthood for us. There have been so many first birthday parties I’ve attended over the years and taken mental notes of the minute details only a mom (or aspiring mom) would appreciate. I would offer compliments to the mom on the tiniest of details, just to let her know that her efforts do not go unnoticed. A Pinterest-perfect occasion, this would be. Months in the making, scouring the corners of the internet for do-it-yourself versions of expensive indulgences. Custom printed invitations would be hand-addressed and sent to loved ones, with one copy saved to press in his baby book. With a custom-made cake topper, a creative theme, some personalized decor, and a cake from a local bakery made especially for us.
We’d gather with close friends in our home. Drinks would be poured. Conversations would be had. An out-of-tune “happy birthday” song would be heard from each corner of the room. A confused little baby would look from myself over to his dad, and back to me again as if to say “what is happening here?”. A little finger would poke at a birthday cake, curiously exploring the taste and texture before fully committing. Smears of frosting we would wash out of every crevice during bath time that night. We’d clear the tables and sit on the couch together arm and arm that night—regaling ourselves with tales of the first year. Opening our camera rolls to reveal hundreds of photos I would soon make into a photo book we could cherish forever. The joy and laughter of that day would live on forever in our hearts.
But that vision was taken from us. There were no guests. No opportunities to exercise my secret love of party planning. All was not lost, however, for there was a great deal of out-of-tune singing. There were mommy snuggles, daddy snuggles and puppy snuggles. He felt the love of his parents in so many ways. But truly, it felt like just another day. The world around us was crumbling from the coronavirus inching closer to our communities.
Stay home, stay inside, and only leave for essential needs.
I mourned the loss of a perfect first birthday celebration for my perfectly imperfect baby. And I still harbor guilt for feeling so sad over something so frivolous when thousands are losing their lives.
Upon further introspection, it is not Carson’s missed first birthday party that I am upset about. It seems to be that the first birthday celebration is more for the parents anyway, and he will have no memories of that day other than photographs. We moved on the next day to our routine in life as we currently know it. What ever-so-slightly stings my heart is the idea that this may be the only first birthday my husband and I experience. It is the pain of a woman unsure—who knows not what the future will bring. It is the pain of a mother who is unclear as to the future of her motherhood and whether that will include more children to hold, to love. Whether it be a decision made by her and her husband that their family is complete as-is, or a decision in God’s hands that one child was meant for them even if they try for more. It is the fear of the judgment that ensues if the choice is ours. Some days our family feels complete and sometimes it feels like there are angel children out there who are yet to belong to us. It’s the uncertainty that is most difficult to grapple with. The wavering of opinions from one end of the spectrum to the other like the change in the weather. It’s not knowing whether or not my body or my mind can endure another life growing inside me again, and the guilt of having to put my husband through watching my suffering.
I do not know what the next year, two years or five will bring—none of us do. So somehow, I need to be able to be at peace with that. At the moment, the best I can do is enjoy the time I have with our first, and acknowledging that it is possibly our only. Whether you have one child or six, what is universally true of motherhood is that our children grow too fast. We rub our eyes, pour our coffee—and boom, another year has gone by. More milestones have been hit and clothes have been outgrown. We pack the associated items away in plastic containers, saving them for another time. It’s unclear what that next time will look like for each of us—but it is the mental unwinding ritual that we as mothers need to do to be able to move on to the next phase. In their lives, and in ours.
Hi! I'm Laura, a 30-something first-time mom raising her little dude in southern California. It's been quite a first year, and this is my way to try to make sense of it all. This is a safe space for all moms to get some laughs, recommendations and feel like they are not alone.